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Burnett Dairy Co-Op Back On Track After Fire

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - A popular tourist stop in Wisconsin's cabin country will once again pump out thousands of pounds of cheese.

Part of the Burnett Dairy Co-Op caught fire back in July.  It took more than a dozen fire departments nearly a day to put out the flames.

The fire sent the night shift at the Burnett Dairy plant scrambling for safety on July 20.

Scott Briggs is Plant Manager.

"By the time I got here the flames were very big, lots of fire departments on site at the time," Briggs said. "The main heart if you want to call it that was where the fire was at."

It burned the oldest part of the more than 100-year-old building.

"The utilities, the water, the electrical, the boiler system it was all housed where the fire started," he explained.

The damage to the creamery put a sudden stop to their massive operation, producing 130,000 pounds of cheese with more than a million pounds of milk from local farmers every day.

"We are in this together we're like a big family," CEO Dave Gaiser said.

"Other manufactures of cheese have stepped us and provided us cheese so we can package it here," he added.

Nine dairies lent a hand so no milk would be wasted and the co-op's 300 employees could keep working.

"When I was growing up in this area there was nothing in this area where we were standing," a customer Peter Johnson said.

Johnson has watched the co-op grow to a general store, beer barn, and wildly popular cheese shop that will continue draw in the crowds.

"We have a lot of Minnesotans who spend their money on the weekend. It's a busy spot, it's unbelievable here," he said.

Nearly 90% of Burnett Dairy will be back in production as of Monday. It will still be another month or so before it reaches peak production levels again here.

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